Rediscovering the cultural heritage of the Muslims in Bulgaria (1920-1950) (EAP1392)

Aims and objectives

A review of archival sources on Muslim communities before and during the communist regime in Bulgaria shows that mainly political and state documents are explored. Available documents on the cultural heritage of the Muslim communities – as created by them and their religious institution or the Grand Mufti’s Office (1920-1950) – were not accessible. Filling in this gap of primary sources was a motivation for elaborating this Project. The Project's aim was digitisation, archiving, and popularisation of printed and handwritten documents and visual material on the cultural heritage of the Muslim communities - as created by them and their religious institution or the Grand Mufti's Office (1920-1950). Through the project activities, part of the archive of the Grand Mufti's Office, which can be considered at risk, located in various unfavourable conditions in different district muftis, mosques, and religious schools, were preserved and made publicly accessible which will contribute to the deepening of the scientific knowledge on Muslims' culturaI development in Bulgaria during the first half of the 20th century and earlier.



As a result of the project "Rediscovering the cultural heritage of the Muslims in Bulgaria (1920-1950)", a total of 1088 items (books, documents, manuscripts, court records, and photographic material) were digitised and described. They are organised in 5 collections according to the location of the documents - Sofia, Vidin, Shumen, Balchik, and the village of Yasenovetz, Razgrad region. The chronological framework of the digitised documents is from the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century. The collections encompass various thematical fields including the history of the religious institutions, the structure, and activity of the Mufti's organisation, the religious conversions, theology and cuisine, poetry, religious literature, prayers for love and health and for preservation against demons, family religious rites and traditions, first and second marriages, and divorces.

The collection from the city of Sofia includes 342 items that contain information on the structural development of the Grand Mufti's office, which at that time was under the authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and of the Confessions in Bulgaria, as well as on the procedure for appointing officials and teachers; job descriptions; curricula, etc. The collection also contains correspondence between the Grand Mufti's office with various institutions and individuals on matters relating to waqf properties, religious conversions, etc. The language of the documents is primarily Bulgarian and to a lesser extent Ottoman Turkish. The material date from the 1920s to the 1950s.

The collection from the town of Vidin is part of the Vidin Mufti's district office archive, and includes 234 digitised items. They are related to marriage and divorce procedures of Muslim Turks and Roma from the Vidin region, as well as correspondence of the Vidin Mufti's Office with various Muslim structures, state institutions, and individuals. The chronological scope of the material is from 1936-1945.

The collection from the town of Shumen includes part of the archives of the Shumen district Mufti's Office and the Nyuvvab Religious School. A total of 281 items have been digitised. Among them are documents related to the financial records of the Shumen District Muftiate; statements (fatwas) given by various religious persons concerning questions addressed to them regarding the distribution of family inheritance; 1 cookbook; 1 book on theology; 1 manuscript of prayers. Chronologically of the digitised material is from the second half of the 19th century to the end of the first half of the 20th century. The used languages are Bulgarian, Ottoman Turkish, Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish.

The Balchik collection contains 110 items. The digitised samples are related to the history and everyday life of the Muslim community in the town of Balchik from 1897 to 1957. The samples are related to education, customs and traditions, administration, and legal issues. The languages of the documents are Bulgarian, Ottoman Turkish, Turkish, Arabic, and Romanian.

The collection from the village of Yasenovetz, Razgrad district includes 121 items - photographs, religious manuscripts, including a literary-religious poem - Mevlid, which is a kind of biography of Allah's Messenger Muhammad and prayers for different occasions, for example, instructions for Friday sermon, prayer in memory of the dead, prayer for support of loved ones, etc.; educational material; and poetry books. The material had no exact dating, but it can be associated to the 19th century and 1st half of the 20th century. The language of the items is Bulgarian, Ottoman Turkish, Turkish, and Arabic.

The records copied by this project have been catalogued as: